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Mommy's Blog

Over the years, I have come to believe in The Autism Life and how it has changed me for the better. We have experienced it all: laughter, tears, despair, hope, sorrow, and joy. Living the autism life changes you. The autism life takes you on a journey where parents start with profound grief and takes you through a winding progression and regression of blame, depression, denial, anger, acceptance and understanding. Join me on this journey as we walk the road through the autism life together.

Of Change and Faith--Of a World of Possibility

Welcome to Insomnia

You have to live it to get it

Finding Home
Last night I traveled from my new home in Florida to my old home in Illinois on a noisy but uneventful flight.  All in all, I drove from my workplace in Daytona Beach to Orlando’s International Airport parking lot, rode in the shuttle from Hell with Gus the maniac driver from the parking lot to the terminal, flew from Orlando to Indy next to a passenger who thought the short shorts from the 80s were making a comeback, ran from the gate to the car like a madwoman, and then drove from Indy to Charleston in a near exha

A tale of a boy and a sandwich
Right now I’m crying over a sandwich.  I know, this sounds utterly ridiculous and most of you are wondering if “Miss Lisha has left the building,” but I can assure you there is a sound and rational reason for my tears of joy.  Yes, joy. 

Miss Lisha's rules to adventuring
My recipe for starting an adventure... 1.)    No therapy!  Adventure Club is not about therapy—it is about having fun and exploring the community as a group.  Do NOT introduce therapy into your adventures!  Adventure Club in and of itself may be therapeutic but it is in no way THERAPY.  These kids have enough therapy in their lives, it’s time to allow them to let their proverbial hair down and be themselves.  

An Adventurous Summer
Parents of children with autism share a lot of similarities no matter where they live, what they do, what income bracket they fall in, no matter what age they happen to be.  One of these similarities is that we often have our own traits of the autism spectrum.  Some of these traits may be subtle and some of them may be glaringly obvious—but these traits are there in all of us.  

The Elevator Question
This week I have been bombarded with things to do before the big move.  Things to pack, things to clean, things to organize, and things to wrap up.  On top of the obvious aspects to moving, I’m trying to get Ewan’s IEP review in before I hit the road.  Over the years IEP meetings have run the gamut of resembling a war room meeting to a board room meeting to a social outing.  Often with IEP meetings, the situation sets the tone and we’ve found ourselves in some interesting situations over the years from the scary, to the stressful, to the hilarious&mdash

What is it about change that puts fear in our hearts and ice in our veins? People often think that this small part of life really shouldn’t be such a big deal, that we should be able to adapt to the situation no matter who, what, when, or where right? Yet change is something we all struggle with, children and adults alike—neurotypical or special needs. For all of us, change makes us hold our breath and pray for faith as we step into the abyss.

Nature's Playground
“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.” ~Loren Eiseley

The Adventure
Our first family vacation is over and we are slowly getting into the routine of everyday life back home. As I look back over the past week I am pleasantly surprised by the turn of events. As I mentioned in the last note, we decided after the years of scripting and social stories and prepping for every moment in life to let it all go and just wing it. I was prepared for meltdowns, anxiety attacks, sensory overload, headaches, and more. Interestingly enough, the only one to experience all that was me as we drove through Atlanta.

A long overdue vacation...
The family vacation—one of the most needed and often one of the most forgotten aspects to life when raising a child with autism. Needed, because let’s face it, autism takes more than you have to give every single day. Forgotten, because let’s face it, there’s no more daunting task than traveling 1200 miles away from the safety of home sleeping in strange beds, eating strange foods, and seeing new places with a child who thrives in the tedium of a cloistered life. It’s easier not to take a vacation, then to need a vacation from your vacation.

How to change a life

A Moment of Clarity
Today is my son’s 8th birthday. Tonight at 9:18 he will officially turn 8 and a whole new world of 3rd grade and life opens up. I remember thinking 8 years ago to the day, that this child was different. I didn’t know just how different he was or why that he was, I only knew that this child was special.

A Universal System of Care

Pain: Teaching what it is and what it means
Throughout history, the field of medicine has made great, if not enormous strides to provide quality care to so many different people. Yet, with all the advances in technology, pathology, and understanding of the human body and disease or disorders, many individuals remain under-treated and misunderstood. Just read the article, "Why Do the Mentally Ill Die Younger" from Time to see there are many individuals and groups in this situation.

The Temple Phenomenon
If you are at all invested in the world of autism, chances are you've heard of Temple Grandin. She is an amazing person, woman, scientist, and writer. Temple continues to break down barriers for women and those with autism in all the things that she does. The new HBO documentary titled, Temple Grandin, is quite honestly one of the best portrayals I've ever seen and if Clare Danes doesn't win an Oscar, I'm starting a rebellion on the doorstep of the Academy.

Think like an autistic
[Sang to the tune of Walk like an Egyptian] Think like an autistic…. Most of the time I’m trying to either see the world from my son’s standpoint or another child with autism. Most of the time someone is asking me why does he do that or why does she act like that or why doesn’t he want to do this? Most of the time, I spend my day thinking like an autistic.

It's a therapy life
From the time my son was 14 months of age, therapists have been a part of my life and his life. Some of Ewan’s therapists have become close friends of mine. Some of Ewan’s therapists are like family now. We have been blessed to work with and learn from some of the greatest therapists to walk the earth. When your life is about therapy you're bound to make some lasting relationships along the way. Every month of his life for the past 7 years he has had some form of therapy taking up permanent space in our lives.

Webinars now available
The Autism Life is now offering live and recorded webinars on various topics including picky eating, the autistic mind, autism in the infant, problem solving through behavioral issues, autism in the medical environment, social development and the child with autism, raising the child with autism and many more are added on a continuous basis.  You can find our webinars through Instant Presenter and can access our webinar hub here:

I Speak Autism T-shirts
For anyone out there wanting to order one of The Autism t-shirts that says "I Speak Autism Do You?" please send your size preference, short or long sleeve, contact information and address to Thank You!Alicia

Hope comes in small packages
Yesterday was a pretty eventful day around here. Up early as the dog and cat raced across my face at 6:30am. No rest for the weary in this house.

English isn't the first language
So many of our children with autism struggle with language. In fact, in order to be diagnosed with autism there must be some sort of communication issue. But this can run the gamut from no language at all, to the most verbal of verbals who speaks better than most professors do. The difficult part about the communication issue is not whether or not language is present—but how the child with autism uses language.

A Child's Grief
This afternoon Ewan turned to me and asked what seemed like a simple question: Ewan: "Did you cry when I came out of your tummy mom?" Me: "Not really.’" Ewan: "Did you cry when Vaughn came out? What about Skye?" Me: "I cried a lot when Skye was born, and a little when Vaughn was born and hardly at all when you were born." Ewan: "Why didn’t you cry when I was borned?" Me: "Because they gave me special medicine that made the pain go away."

The Yard Salad

A Month for a Lifetime
April is Autism Awareness Month. One month to raise awareness and spread understanding for those who will live their entire lives seeing the world from another perspective. One month to spread patience and information for a lifetime of being misunderstood. One month to advocate for an inclusive community for a lifetime of feeling on the fringe. What does Autism Awareness Month really stand for?

Tornado Alley

The Ham Water Incident
Today was Easter. Yet another holiday dinner where my two youngest spent the meal outside while everyone else feasted on ham, potatoes, cole slaw, rolls, corn, green beans, and lemon pie. Yet another holiday where the chaos of the social holiday nightmare was too much for Ewan. Yet another holiday where the swirling tornado of smells forced Vaughn outside to the sanctuary of fresh air. If Ewan's Church is his bedroom, then Vaughn's temple is the great outdoors.

The Autistic Patient's Manifesto

The 'Mild' Fallacy
Too often when working alongside children with autism I hear people say, “Oh he’s just mildly autistic,” as if this somehow exempts the child from needing support or patience or understanding. Somehow ‘mild’ means ‘pretty much typical’ in some minds. I’m here to tell you, there is nothing ‘mild’ about autism no matter where you fall upon the spectrum.

Everyone here spoke autism
Lately I have been thinking about the world of autism and the world of the neurotypical. Most of the time these two worlds are in orbit of each other in a solar system that keeps them at a distance. Very rarely do these two planets come close enough to get a glimpse of the inhabitants. More often than not, we gaze at each other from a distance trying desperately to understand the alienness of the other one.

Say What?
Over the past week I have become acutely aware of just how important the ear really is. My youngest has had fluid on his ears and is getting ready to have tubes put in. The last few days have been an exercise in patience as every word spoken elicits the 'What?' response. He can't hear the TV, he can't hear us talking to him, he can't even hear the cars moving about the subdivision. The good part for him is that this is temporary. The good part is that with a 15 minute surgery he'll join the world of sounds and words once again. Imagine if you will, if you heard everything.

The Yellow Brick Road
“Your child has autism.”

Autism is Not an Island
The moment someone says to you, "Your child has autism" the world suddenly becomes a very lonely place. With four little words life changes in ways that becomes inexplicable to the outsider. For awhile we may be left adrift in a sea of confusion only to wash up on an island insulated from everyone and everything else. It's easy to find yourself alone and intimidated. It's easy to find yourself stranded on Autism Island. Only this time, Ricardo Montalban and Tattoo aren't there to welcome you.

'People Like You Are the Reason People Like Me Take Medication' ~Aspie Quote
At some point in the autism life, parents and caregivers will face the medication issue. Whether it's behaviors, anxiety, depression, or some other aspect of life--we will look to the pharmacy for help. Parents and caregivers stress over this and agonize over decisions of having to use medications--rightfully so, using medication is not an easy or simple decision. Yet often we look at having to explore medication as a failure on our part--and the guilt trip continues.

The Crystal Ball

A Smelly Dilemma
Smell is a tricky thing for most of us. We use our olfactory sense everyday to help us make those important ‘should I drink this milk’ kinds of decisions. Science has shown us that the olfactory sense is a highly evolved one used by animal and insects in regulating almost every aspect of daily life. We are learning a great deal about the role of pheromones in the life of animals and insects and are just beginning to understand their role in human behavior.

The Line in the Sand
Raising and working with children isn’t easy. Teaching children about life requires one to have a variety of skills, whether we are talking about typically developing children or not. The greatest tools anyone can have most often are the easiest ones to acquire: for right now let’s think common sense and flexibility.

The All Kids Notion
As many of you know, Miss Lisha has several pet peeves. Today I heard one of my all time pet peeves pretty much the whole day—following me around like a bad habit. The phrase, ‘Well all kids do that’ gets under my skin like an infectious rash.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
Every morning, a fierce battle is waged in my living room. The hostilities emerge not from some deep fundamental and philosophical differences between mother and son—the conflict arises over a pair of pants and a shirt. It’s not the War of the Roses in this house, it’s the War of T-Shirts and Shorts.

A Better Life
In the morning I try and write in the quiet after my children leave for school. I have a steaming cup of coffee by my side and an iPod playlist on high as the keyboard clicks away. It’s the calm after the storm {except right at this moment when the dog chases the cat through the living room and a glass of orange juice gets knocked over}.

The Autism Condition
Invariably, when I write about some aspect of our life with autism, my thoughts on autism, my feelings about some part of the autism life--someone out there reading it can identify with just about every word. I tend to look at this as The Autism Condition. The Autism Condition includes:

The Guilt Trip

When we have to say why
Last night I had to tell my son he has autism. It's a decision that my husband and I have struggled with for a long time. When and how to tell a child that they think differently and understand the world from a very different perspective.

The R Word
This week, an uproar in the disability and every other community sprang up over Rahm Emanuel’s use of the ‘R’ word. And in case you’ve been under a rock your whole life, by ‘R’ word, I mean retarded.

10 Minutes to Wapner

You Spin Me Right Round
This morning I struggle to sit at the desk and type. I struggle with this very simple task because the world is moving around when it shouldn’t. Vertigo has struck with a vengeance and my inner ear is a casualty in the war. We rarely think about our inner ear and our vestibular system, parts of the body just work and we never give it a first or second thought. We never give a moment of our time to think about sitting or standing or moving. We just do it. It’s only when they cease to function properly that we understand how intricate and complex the human body is.

It seems that in the field of autism, there’s one word that tends to fray the nerves of Miss Lisha: noncompliance. In my book, the word ‘noncompliance’ is second only to the word ‘behavior’. Both of these terms mean little to nothing in the grand scheme of things. Behavior implies something happened and noncompliance implies you are a ‘My Way or The Highway’ kind of person. I imagine that Miss Lisha is noncompliant most of the day, everyday. I also imagine that the United States of America was founded by a group of noncompliant individuals.

Basics of Care

Death and the Autist
Today I had to tell my children that their great grandmother had died.

Miss Lisha's Rules to Working with Children

From Autism to Alzheimer's: My Life with a Brain
This week I have come to the realization that everything happens for a reason. Seven years ago, my son was born and within the first year we realized things were a bit different for him. When he was 14 months old, early intervention came to our house and screened him for delays in development and quickly started speech therapy, occupational therapy, and developmental therapy among other things. My life changed in a brief instant.

The Spaces In-between
It's midnight and all is quiet in my house. No televisions, no phones, no children running, no boys wrestling, and no blaring sounds from the daughter's iPod. It's times like these that I get to sit back, take that deep breath down to my toes and reflect upon the day and direction of our lives. My friend Cheri, feeding phenom / mother / writer / and all around great gal, wrote on Family Care and the special needs child last week. Families raising special needs children are different. We are just plain different.

Into the rabbit hole
Much like Alice, Miss Lisha has fallen down the rabbit hole and into what feels like winter right in the middle of summer. I feel a bit bleached and worn through from the inside out--almost as if my self, my soul has been stretched too thin. Why is it that I cannot shut out the pain, push through it, and find the other side? How I wish I were more like Lance Armstrong as he said, "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place.

Great Hopes and Expectations
What is it about a doctor’s appointment that we put so much hope and expectation into it?

Can I take your order?
So we are at lunch today and the waitress comes to take our order and as she leaves, Ewan turns and says, “I think her name is Deb.” I asked him, “How do you know her, has she been at your school?” To which Ewan replied, “Mooooommmmm, she’s wearing a name tag,” as if to say, duh mom. The best part though is when the waitress returns. Ewan looks up, smiles, and says, “Hi Deb!” as if he has known her his whole life. Of course, ‘Deb’ lights up and flashes Ewan a bright smile and asks his name and continues the conversation.

Vacuum Cleaners and all that
Obsessions can be a real interesting ride. My autie has had quite the obsessions over the years from volcanoes to spiders to tractors to space to plants to now vacuum cleaner attachments. Yes, that's right, vacuum cleaner attachments.

It is what it is
Two nights ago I did a presentation on Autism and Discipline for the local support group. This morning, I am vividly reminded about everything I talked about that night. It's barely 9 am on a Saturday morning and already the boys are at it. Ewan and his brother are attempting to recreate the World Wide Wrestling Federation matches of the 80s in my living room. Why you might ask?

What do you know about autism?
When you think of autism, what is the first thing you think of? Do you think of Rainman and Dustin Hoffman? Do you think of an institution? Most people have an 'imprint' of what autism means to them and it's not always the reality of autism. Most people think 'nonverbal' when they think of autism. They think this person will not be able to live life independently. They think this person will not be affectionate. They think this person does not have empathy for others. They think this person will never make eye contact. They think of this as a shell of a human being.

A Special Needs House
Today my husband took our new kitty, Moses, to the vet. While Moses was there, the vet asked Anthony if we thought he had a hard time hearing. Anthony said that, yes, it seems that he doesn't respond to his name, doesn't respond to the food bag being shaken, and thinks the vacuum cleaner and hair dryer are more fun than anything. After a quick exam, the vet said to wait till Moses was sleeping and make some noise off to the side of his ears to see if he responded.

Literally Literal--Ewanisms

Autistic Humor
Lately, my spectrummy son has been quite the comedian. Sometimes on purpose, othertimes not. I've heard many professionals says autistics can't understand humor and couldn't tell a joke if it came wrapped up in Thomas the Train wrapping paper. I beg to differ.

The Night Watch
I was thinking of posting this last night as I got the children ready for bed. Last night, of course being Christmas Eve, it was hard for the children to go to sleep. Too many thoughts running through their heads! Every little creak meant Santa must surely be here. Finally, finally those little eyelids lost the battle to gravity and exhaustion and off they went to sleep. Hours later, I too went to sleep but not the deep sleep I normally find. No, last night was much like the nights when one of the children gets sick. One eye closed and one eye open.

Which Word, Which World?
Ok, so I have a few more thoughts on this whole people first language versus the flip side, at least in terms of autism. I am at a conference at the moment and I listened to a session this morning on Deaf culture with a capital D. Couple of things that the presenter discussed was a quote by Lou Fant. Roughly the quote went along the lines that without a legitimage recognized language, there is no culture. Without culture you have no self-identity. Without self identity you just go on trying to be what others demand you to be.Hmmmm....

The Eyes are the Key
You will notice a post over on the Food Chaining blog where Cheri discusses how important it is to observe a child's eyes during therapy sessions. Cheri is 100% right--the eyes are the key. It was once said that the eyes are the windows to the soul and that is something we can all learn from.

A Word, An Identity
In the autism community, and the disability community as a whole, there is much disagreement over the order of just a few small words: person with autism or autistic person. So which is it? People first language implies that it is the person with autism but many adults with a form of autism say that it is far more appropriate to say autistic person.

Medical Care for the Child or Adult with ASD

Holidays--Not what they used to be
Holidays don't hold the same appeal for our family as they used to. For me, growing up and going to holiday dinners was so much fun and so full of good 'soul' food. I've never been one to turn down good food so I relish in all the smells, spices, and tasty dishes. I've always loved mashed potatoes, turkey, and pecan or pumpkin pie. So it's unusual now to look at Thanksgiving or other holidays that revolve around a big meal as more of a chore than a delight. Chore a bit because of the traveling. Chore a bit because of the transition for Ewan.

Just a few guiding principles

Be on a child's level
Two years ago, I was a graduate assistant in the Child Development Laboratory at EIU and was lucky enough to work with incredible children, talented students, and passionate instructors and professors there. One of the greatest lessons I learned from my time at the Lab was to get down on the child's level. It's not something that comes instinctively to adults. It's something we have to work hard at doing, to remember, to get down on their level and to communicate. So often, we find ourselves looking down at children and interacting from a five foot height difference.

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails
Boys and girls and girls and boys. Two totally different ends of the rainbow, in this house anyway. My oldest, Skye, the infamous TEENAGER, is a girl. My other two munchkins are boys and nowhere near the teenager years--although when it hits these two it will be teens at the same awful time and my gray hairs will multiply by the thousands. Tonight, my boys have completely ransacked my house.

It takes a village
As a mother of three children there are a couple of couple of proverbs I believe in. Those include: "It takes a village to raise a child" and "One knee does not bring up the child" and "One hand does not nurse a child." As a mother of a child with autism, I apply this same philosophy to his treatment: "One therapist does not treat the child!" One of the best lessons I have learned from Cheri Fraker, Laura Walbert, Cheryl Swenny, Sibyl Cox, Dr. Fishbein, and of course, Stacey Vitale is that it takes a multidisciplinary team to treat a child.

Where is the light?
As a parent of a special needs child and two typically developing children, I often get bogged down in the day to day struggles and find it difficult to keep my head above water. There have been times that it felt like surely I was drowning and couldn't take another step. There have been days that it seemed like one more thing and this ship would sink. Somehow, someway, I took another breath, put the right foot in front of the left and kept moving.

A Calling in Life
I've been reading the book Autism Spectrum Disorders in Infants and Toddlers right now and I find the work done by the contributing researchers fascinating. I truly believe that we can see characteristics of autism very early and should be able to diagnose much, much earlier than 2-3 years.

Children with Emerald Eyes
Spent most of yesterday reading. I ended up reading Children with Emerald Eyes by Mira Rothenberg and I have to say I had quite the time trying to get to sleep last night! So much in that book that I was not prepared for! But there are some amazing quotes in there. My favorite thus far is:"Have you ever heard the sound of rage when it seems noiseless? It roars with an intensity. It grumbles with a desiccating rhythm. Its voice is dry and throaty. Sometimes it sounds like hell. And its color is white.

A Mom's Eye View On Autism
Hello and welcome to the Mommy blog part of! As you can see, this website was created by a family living the Autism life for other families doing the same, knowingly or unknowingly. We also have a Dad’s Corner for the guys on the site to relate to each, and there is a Sibling’s Section written by my oldest child and her experience with all of this. My goal is to speak more to the families of young and very young children who are looking for help or are concerned about their child. Some families who are coming to this site may not have a di

Different Roads To Learning
As you may see throughout this website, I focus on my son’s strengths, the things he is good at and I work from there. I encourage his strengths, pay attention to them, and value them no matter what they are. And that’s how I feel about all my children, not just Ewan. When my daughter gets excited about ballet and dancing, we enrolled her in ballet, we take her to see The Nutcracker or Cinderella. We encourage her to practice, to listen to classical music, and to enjoy dance in all its forms. When my youngest son says he loves cars, we buy him toy cars,

The Importance Of Food
I haven’t been posting much to the mommy blog lately because we’ve all been so busy around here. We’re all kind of exhausted and trying to find some reserve to make it through the next couple of months. You see, it all started a few months ago when Ewan couldn’t drink without coughing and sputtering after almost every drink. We all kind of thought, ‘Hey man, did you forget how to drink or what?’ Finally, he did at speech and his very wonderful SLP, Stacey, was like, ‘Uhh, how long has that been going on?’ So after so

Why Books And Crayons Are So Important
It’s never too early to read to your child. I know how hard it is to read to a young child that has a hard time sitting still for a few minutes, but I cannot emphasize reading enough to any family regardless of their situation. Reading to a young child can be hard; reading to a child on the spectrum with sensory issues can be even harder. Some children are just flipping the pages as fast as they can, some are ripping the pages, and I’m sure there’s a few trying to eat the pages (here I am referring to my neurotypical two year old hee hee). But re

He Ate The Pumpkin Bread!
The other day, Ewan and I were out of town to see his Feeding Team specialists due to some new issues that have popped up with swallowing correctly. The appointment lasted awhile and Ewan was very patient throughout the whole thing so when we were done I thought he and I both needed a snack break. We decided to stop at a Starbucks since mommy was running low on energy and a cup of coffee always seems to help!  

The Bond Between Brothers
Last spring I was debating about bringing Ewan home in the afternoons (out of one of his preschool activities) and letting him spend some down time with his brother and me.  I so wanted for the two boys to connect in a meaningful way so that they might be closer to each other as they grew up.  I was getting the feeling that Ewan’s schedule of activities was so stretched that the boys felt very separate from each other. It just may be the case that big, strong Ewan will need his younger brother to help him out every now and then.  So I brought Ewan home and t

Ewan At Irish Fest
This past weekend we packed the kids in the car and drove to Indianapolis for Irish Fest. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, we hadn’t been to the one in Indy before and certainly Ewan hadn’t gone to any festival style event since the last 4th of July debacle. Ewan sometimes has a hard time with big crowds, loud noises, and the chaos that goes into a festival (I’m sure you’re thinking, duh). The last one we went to was in our hometown and just a little Fourth of July celebration that had live bands, inflatable bouncers for kids to play on, a

Finding Your Child's Strengths
I think this video brings up an important point for parents and those who work with children, neurotypical or otherwise.  All children have strengths, all children have things they like to do and things they are good at.  What is different for the family living on the spectrum is that the things their child is interested in and are good at, are not always what we see in other kids that same age.  Sometimes it is so off the wall for us neurotypicals (NTs) that we don not consider it a good thing or it becomes odd.  But anything that your child lights up at, even if it is

Labor Day Weekend
This being the Labor Day weekend, most families are grilling out, celebrating, and hanging out with extended families and friends. Over the weekend, we were able to get out and have some fun with some minor accommodations. For one, we went to a state park and walked some trails, just me and the kids (dad got to go golfing this weekend). The kids had a great time. Ewan was a little nervous when we walked by the lake but he did great on the trails. Walking on the rough terrain was some good exercise and provided some great ‘proprioceptive’ input. Ne

Sharing Stories
I want to say that we’ve had some really wonderful responses to the website and I would encourage those of you reading this and living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to share your own story. As I’ve mentioned to others, it’s not often that we get to share our story with so many people. Most of those we interact with, doctors, therapists, and educators would prefer the glossed-over, cliff notes version of our struggles and triumphs. But what is really interesting is how similar our stories actually are, even from the very beginning. As some of you ha